HAYDN: The Complete Early Divertimenti and Feldparthien = Haydn Sinfonietta Wien/ Huss – BIS (5 CDs)

by | Feb 14, 2012 | Classical Reissue Reviews

HAYDN: The Complete Early Divertimenti and Feldparthien = Hob. II: 1-3, 7-9, 11, 14-17, 2-23, D22 & G1; Hob. IV: 5; Hob. XIV: 1; Violin Concerto in C, Hob. VIIa: 1; Variations Fragment in E-flat, Hob. II: 24; March for the Prince of Wales, Hob. VIII: 3; March for the Royal Society of Musicians, Hob. VIII: 3bis – Haydn Sinfonietta Vienna/ Manfred Huss – BIS 1806/1808 (5 CDs), 5:45:50 [Distr. by Qualiton] *****:
You might not think an album like this would be worth your time; perhaps as a collector there might be advantages to owning these early works that are (mostly) by Haydn, but they are rarely something you would like to hear very often, right? Wrong! These pieces, mostly five-movements and for a variety for instruments, are forerunners to the string quartet and ultimately symphonies, each of which Haydn was the considerable father of.
Divertimenti in general were intended for outdoor, mainly nocturnal, events, and Haydn’s employment put him in a very advantageous position to create a lot of these for a wide spectrum of musicians. The term “Feldparthien” refers to wind instruments only and these would have been the preferred medium in most outdoor cases, though the addition of a double bass to many of the string parts added much-needed weight in outdoor situations. We have both these examples on these five discs, and there is no lack of color or interesting tonal combinations in any of these works; in fact we find some very creative scoring involved, like violins, English horns, bassoons, and horns, or violin, viola, bass, and four horns.
No matter what the scoring, what we are faced with is music by  a master composer that is way beyond Mozart’s lesser works of this name, and full of inspired and absolutely marvelous melody and nifty turns of phrase. When I first put this on I was quite hesitant in considering what I might be up against; but by the time the first disc was over I was completely sold. This music is not only of excellent quality but superbly engaging and delightful at every turn. If you think you knew all the Haydn you needed (or wanted), think again; you don’t know the whole picture of this composer without these early gems.
The performances are committed and spontaneous sounding, with each performer playing with gusto and a great deal of enjoyment. The sound is excellent, the packaging first class, and best of all Bis is selling this at a 3-for-5 discount. It might be noted that these were originally available on the Koch label (remastered by Bis) except for disc two, a previously unreleased recording native to the company. Don’t miss this set!
—Steven Ritter

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